Interviewing Faculty and Graduate Students

Suggested Questions for Interviewing Faculty

Keep in mind that you are evaluating the UW-Madison, the Botany Department, and the faculty member’s laboratory as much as the faculty member is evaluating you. Be prepared to ask, as well as answer, questions.

Sample questions a faculty member might ask:

  • What is your previous research experience? (It is often OK not to have much.)
  • Why are you interested in graduate school?
  • Why are you interested in studying ‘X’?
  • Would you be interested in studying ‘Y’ instead?
  • I don’t have research money to support you, so you will probably be a teaching assistant throughout your graduate career. How would you prioritize classes, teaching and research?

Things you might want to ask a prospective advisor:

  • How many graduate students work with you and how similar/diverse are their projects?
  • What is the difference between M.S. and Ph.D. projects?
  • Who generally decides what the research topic will be?
  • How could I expect to be funded if I came to work in your lab?
  • How long do students in you lab typically take to finish?
  • I have some experience studying ‘X’. Is continuing along this line of research compatible with your lab?
  • What jobs have your former graduate students started after they have graduated?

Suggested Questions for Interviewing Graduate Students

  • What’s the best/worst thing about: being a graduate student, your advisor, the Botany Department, UW, Madison, etc?
  • How long have you been in graduate school and when do you expect to finish?
  • What is the teaching load like for a TA in the department?
  • Do you recommend ‘Professor X’ as an advisor?
  • What is the most difficult part of the graduate student process? What is the most important part?
  • What is the cost of housing? Is it easy to find a place to live?

Be aware that graduate students might be willing to give more open answers in person than in writing. After all, you are asking them to chat about their supervisor.